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Posts Tagged ‘open

 
We need to question the belief that once you put something online, it is there forever and for all to see. This is not true all the time.

You can blog or tweet or upload a video on YouTube. But no one might view it, much less respond to it.

You might maintain public wishlists, video playlists, or audio shares that no one sees, watches, or listens to.

Dropbox recently changed its public folder policy. HTML pages will no longer be sharable so you cannot run a low-traffic website out of Dropbox.

As of October 3, 2016, you can no longer use shared links to render HTML content in a web browser. If you created a website that directly displays HTML content from your Dropbox, it will no longer render in the browser.

Just because something is online does not immediately make it visible, sharable, or valuable.

But post a naughty photo or say something stupid, and potential employers and the authorities might shut doors on you.

So it is not enough to say “be careful online” or “do not put things online”. These generic rules, even if illustrated with cases, are not meaningful. Only what connects with each owner and creator of the content as well as their intended and unintended audiences are meaningful.

Last week I volunteered for a school’s career guidance event for students. The students chose who they wanted to interview in half-hour intervals and we shared our hearts out.

A teacher inserted himself into my group’s discussion. As we meandered from one topic to another, that teacher declared this about his students: “They prefer pen and paper.”

No, they do not. Students have been conditioned to accepting them. The Principal of Change articulated this in a recent blog entry:

many of our students are so used to “school” that something outside the lines of what they know terrifies them just as much as any adult. If school has become a “checklist” for our students (through doing rubrics, graduation requirements, etc.), learning that focuses on creation and powerful connections to learning, not only take more effort, but more time, which sometimes frustrates many students.

 

The problem with... by horrigans, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  horrigans 

 
There is an immediacy to paper which needs to be examined in more ways than one. If you have a notebook or scrap ready, there is quickness of use and illustration that is hard to beat. Some might also value the feel of paper as a form of immediate recognition.

But paper is also immediate in that what happens there immediately stops there. There is no hyperlinking or ease of editing, copying, and sharing. The affordances of paper, as wonderful as they are, also have limited pedagogy: Go where I say, stay where you are, write neatly, do not copy, do not share, etc.

Paper is comforting because it does not push pedagogy to new ground, so schools use a lot of it. Other than the newspaper industry, I do not know any other organization that relies on so much paper. OK, maybe the toilet paper industry.

Ultimately, schools justify the pen and paper mode of instruction because of the pen and paper exams. This is despite the increasingly non-pen and paper life and work that awaits learners when they move on.


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Saying kids prefer pen and paper is like saying they would rather use encyclopedias instead of Google or Wikipedia. (BTW, they know the limitations of those tools better than teachers might expect).

Just ask enough of our kids the same questions the teens were asked in the video above. Their responses might not be as colourful as the ones in the video, but you are likely to get similar responses.

Like the video, you will get a few responses about paper-form books based on nostalgia and tactility. But these come from a place of honesty and passion, not from conditioning by a schooling system that refuses to change. These come from students who learn how to think by themselves instead of providing conditioned responses.

Do we assume nostalgia to be important enough not to change? Do teachers have a right to recreate their own world instead of preparing kids for theirs? I borrow another quote from The Principal of Change in the same blog entry:

if we do not challenge our students in the learning they do in school, what are we preparing them for? What mindset will we actually create in our students? It is important, if not crucial, to really listen and act upon student voice…

How much longer are we going to maintain conditions for “pen and paper” conditioned responses?

Today I help facilitate a free seminar on Creative Commons (CC) in Singapore.

We do not have an ambitious plan and are starting simple to gauge interest and to create ownership of CC efforts.

I anticipate that a few attendees might have questions and experiences that relate to implementation issues. That is, there might be folks who are already sold on the idea and want to take action. So I share some of my limited experiences with rolling out change using my ABC framework (awareness, buy-in, commitment).
 

 
To create awareness, you can organize events like tomorrow’s free seminar. I mentioned yesterday how I also led an e-Fiesta and conducted talks with CC as content.

Some passive but complementary ways of creating awareness might include using media like posters and YouTube videos.

Such efforts can lead to stakeholder buy-in if you manage change well with follow ups like focused conversations and informal meetings.
 

 
The stakeholders you might target first for buy-in at institutes of higher education (IHLs) are key appointment holders and librarians.

Appointment holders can set policy around the creation and sharing of learning resources and research artefacts.

For example, most institutes lay claim to the copyright or intellectual property of any process or product created by its employees. Appointment holders might make some exceptions, say resources created under institute-sanctioned volunteer work, as belonging to their staff and/or open for sharing by default.

Appointment holders could require their institutes to be signatory to open licensing and publishing. The could mean promoting financial grants that have open requirements and then sharing data corpuses, reports, and other related material after a short embargo period.

If they are daring enough, such change leaders might add open efforts to staff appraisals and promotions either as core components or as distinctive X factors.

Institutional libraries are publication gatekeepers. They shape policies for the mode of sharing an institute’s research, books, white papers, monographs, posters, etc. For example, yesterday I shared how my alma mater shared dissertations under CC.

Libraries might consider at least two metrics when considering open or CC initiatives. First, open publications tend to draw more views because they are more accessible. Second, open resources are free or might cost considerably less than those hidden behind paywalls.

What of open initiatives in mainstream schools?

Media resources teachers and educators in charge of digital citizenship are in the best position to promote the use of open or CC-licensed resources. They can teach students how to use CC-enabled search engines more prudently and how to attribute what they use.

If good policies are put in place, instructors at mainstream schools and IHLs might also require learners to use and cite CC-licensed artefacts as part of curricular demands.
 

 
What I have described so far deals with creating awareness (I know) and buy-in (I believe in). What creates commitment (I own it)?

One of the best ways to create commitment to change is for teachers and students to walk the talk. They should give back or “pay it forward” by sharing what they create under open or CC licences. Creators can use this CC licence generator to label and share their work.

I do not recommend extrinsically rewarding such efforts because they should be rewards in themselves. However, there might be room for strategic efforts like contests on CC concepts or learner-led sharing of their CC efforts. These feed the awareness engine for the on-going and iterative efforts to push open learning forward.

Moving from awareness to commitment (ownership) transforms the good-to-know concept of sharing openly to one of better-to-practise. This is the bottom line if you want to share because you care: You cannot think about implementing CC; you must do CC.

I was happy to be a part of a recent edtech event that promised to make resources available to participants. When asked if I would share my resources, I did not hesitate because that is what I do with all my talks and workshops.
 

Closed Sign in Yellowstone by bmills, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  bmills 

 
A week after the event, I received email requesting that participants complete event feedback before getting access to resources.

The organizers are entitled to do this. After all, there are very few truly free meals. But this might be a sign of the creeping back of the old mindset of withholding.

I shared my resources openly on my blog. At my session, I projected URLs on screen and provided participants with stickers with URLs to the resources.

Sharing resources openly and freely sends a more important message than the event itself. An open tool or platform must be used in an open way instead of a closed one. Model and practise closed use and that mindset remains entrenched.

I do not worry about my ideas being stolen because I shared them under a Creative Commons licence (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike). If people abuse it by not acknowledging or crediting, they will be found out and other people will stop listening to them. It will be that obvious and it starts with you being open.

The way to stop a bad cycle is to prevent the wheel from spinning. It is not to add fuel to an engine running on fear and selfishness. It is not to close what is meant to be open.

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Yesterday I reflected on the moral dilemma of playing the research game because it benefits only a few stakeholders. Today I continue with the processes of publishing research.

Most academics review articles and serve on editorial boards because it looks great on their CVs. For a few, this also provides power to lord over others by rejecting papers in the name of “objective” reviews. The same might be said of committees that determine disbursement of funds for research.

But all that is child’s play when compared to the ruse of publishers.

With one hand they pull in reviewers of journal papers for free (it is a service academics provide for one another after all). With the other, the publishers collect money by charging top dollar to libraries, organizations, and individuals who want journal collections or specific papers.

What I have reflected on is not news. In 2002, Frey compared the publishing process to prostitution. PhD Comics had an amusing take on this in 2011.


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The open movement is a disruptive process that threatens the membership and rules of the game of research as currently played.

Open practice champions like Martin Weller do great work in this respect. His recent blog entry on the benefits of being open is a must-read.

Influential bodies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are insisting that research data and publications be shared with the Creative Commons Attribution licence.

A few local universities and agencies have shared some materials openly, but they are an insignificant drop in the research bucket.

Not only is the rest of published research is not so freely shared, researchers are complicit by playing to the rules set by publishers, universities, and grant bodies.

If you are not an academic, you should be morally outraged. If you are, you should reflect critically on the state of the playing field.

There is a game that university academics play. The game has a strict selection process and the chosen must play by the rules.

However, like casinos, the house always wins, the players think they win, and the players’ stakeholders tend to lose.

Casino Velden Panorama by geek7, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  geek7 

 
The game is called research and publishing. It is a game that academics play because they are expected to. Very few seem to challenge its rules and the ethics of playing the game the same old way.

Anyone can conduct research without getting a grant or by paying out of pocket, but why would they? They get more points in their appraisals if they successfully apply for grant money.

The money comes from a corporation or a government body or the university itself, and there are often stringent demands when applying for funds. That is a good thing because the money ultimately comes from the taxpayer and layperson.

What might be less clear is how the money benefits these stakeholders even if researchers have to justify their research. Leaders and managers of universities and funding agencies recognize this ethical issue and take administrative and policy measures to address it. There are strict review processes, rules to protect human subjects, regular reporting processes, expectations of social responsibility or scaling up, etc.

But with the way the game is played in reality, the benefit to stakeholders seems tertiary, if at all. The research money primarily benefits researchers and journal publishers, and secondarily benefits a research ecosystem.

Research money helps some academic staff publish papers and get promotions. If enough of them do these, they raise the profile and international ranking of the university. Research outputs go to journals and publishers profit from the work of researchers. These are the primary beneficiaries.

In order to conduct research and publish, academic staff need to buy equipment, hire staff, outsource some services, arrange for conference travel, and so on. This could benefit some stakeholders by providing employment and creating a demand for assorted services. These are the secondary beneficiaries.

But research is typically funded over only two or three years. This means that funding cycles are tight and a researcher needs to be creative with resources and/or apply for multiple grants if s/he wants to sustain the research.

Sustaining a study is particularly important in educational or social studies type of research because of the subjectivity and complexity of human factors. Such studies also might have interventions like technology use which take time to develop, implement, and revise.

Sometimes researchers move from one grant to another (and therefore from one research topic to another) like slash-and-burn farmers move from plot to plot. Both leave damage in their wake. In the case of educational research, it might be schools, teachers, and students who have no support after the study team pulls out.

Closed circles are created when researchers team up with one or a few partner teachers or schools. If there is harm, it is contained. If there is good, it is highly contextualized and difficult to generalize.

The process of publishing the results or impact of research is also closed. More thoughts on that tomorrow.

 
During my vacation in Vietnam, I managed to read parts of the Innovating Pedagogy 2014 report by the Open University UK.

The report cited an author who wrote:

There must be an ‘industrial revolution’ in education, in which educational science and the ingenuity of educational technology combine to modernize the grossly inefficient and clumsy procedures of conventional education. Work in the schools of the future will be marvelously though simply organized, so as to adjust almost automatically to individual differences and the characteristics of the learning process. There will be many laborsaving schemes and devices, and even machines – not at all for the mechanizing of education, but for the freeing of teacher and pupil from educational drudgery and incompetence.

The quote sounds current, but it was written by Sidney Pressey in 1933. That is just over 90 years ago. He was pushing for technology-enabled change then just as we are now.

The pushes for change will persist because of the inertia of governors and the governed. But as technologies evolve to become more powerful, connected, and intuitive, I hope that pull factors drive change instead.

The messaging then changes from “This is why and how you must change!” to “We want this change. What is stopping us?”


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